Elusive, Official Says
A U.S.-led campaign to stop the money supply to terrorists has made progress, but keeping up with the increasingly risky financing schemes will require more training and work with other countries, a top Treasury Department official said yesterday.
Roughly $113 million in assets belonging to al Qaeda and its associates has been frozen worldwide since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
"We have made substantial progress since September 11th . . . but realize that much work remains to be done," Jimmy Gurule, Treasury's undersecretary for enforcement, told the Senate Judiciary Committee.
As terrorist financiers are forced out of the traditional banking system, they are turning to riskier ways to move money, he said, including smuggling cash and cigarettes; trafficking of diamonds, gold and drugs; and siphoning money from charitable donations.
Since September 2001, the Customs Service has made 650 seizures of bulk cash totaling $21 million, including $12.9 million with a Middle East connection -- more than a twofold increase of bulk cash seized with a Middle East connection when compared with the year before Sept. 11, 2001, Gurule said.
Of Diplomatic Breach
The United States accused Zimbabwe of a serious breach of the Vienna Convention on the treatment of diplomats and said it was reassessing its presence there.
Two Americans -- a U.S. embassy and a U.N. official -- were detained and interrogated last Friday when they went out of the capital, Harare, to investigate food shortages. The United States says Zimbabwean "war veterans" assaulted an embassy worker.
Zimbabwean Information Minister Jonathan Moyo was quoted in the official Herald newspaper as saying that the two Americans were part of a group that stage-managed and filmed a scramble for food among farm workers.
U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Reeker denied that allegation and stepped up the war of words with the government of President Robert Mugabe.
U.S. Defends Eyeing
The Pentagon defended an anti-terrorism technology experiment that critics have likened to domestic spying on the financial transactions of ordinary citizens.
Pete Aldridge, the Pentagon's chief of technology, said the project is intended to test whether new computer tools can comb through masses of information -- such as credit card and bank transactions, car rentals and gun purchases -- and spot clues to the planning of terrorist acts.
"This is an important research project to determine the feasibility of using certain transactions and events to discover and respond to terrorists before they act," Aldridge said in a statement designed to address criticism in newspaper editorials and elsewhere about the project's civil liberties implications.
-- Compiled from reports by the Associated Press and Reuters